Thursday, 8 May 2014

Crab House Café

In general, the reviews in this blog will be of places in London seeing as that’s where I’m based. However, exceptions will be made in instances where I feel the need to share with you my non-London discoveries and, OH BOY, is this one worth sharing!

This little gem is known as the Crab House Café and is located on Chesil beach, overlooking Portland. I discovered this a few years ago when my parents moved down to the area and, as a seafood/fish lover, it has quickly become my firm favourite.

Now, I should point out that if you don’t like seafood or fish then this probably isn’t for you. They really do stick to their guns which is part of the reason why I like it so much. I have seen vegetarian options on the menu once or twice but it isn’t a permanent feature (probably worth a phone call in advance if you are planning to go with a veggie!)
In Summer, it gets booked up very quickly due to the location. Placing a booking a month ahead is wise as it is a pretty small
restaurant so tables get filled easily. The staff don’t try and rush you so tables can be occupied by the same group for a number of hours.

The building itself is more of a “shack” than a café/restaurant. Its wooden exterior gives it an almost rustic, beach-washed feel which is perfect for the setting. Since I first came here, they have slowly built up an outside seating area with heaters and blankets as well as wooden trinkets and maracas dotted about the place. All a bit random but it somehow seems to work! The inside is simplistic; white washed walls, wooden tables, framed photographs and some fishing accessories hung from the ceiling. The kitchen dominates as it is entirely open with a showcase of the days catches on display. You can even sit and watch the chefs shucking oysters through a glass partition wall (someone’s gotta do it).

The menu is full of surprises in that you never know what might be on offer! The chalk board on the wall above the kitchen shows handwritten menu options which are all based on what has been caught that day. The later you book, the fewer options you have as they simply get wiped off once they are gone. There is a seasonal printed menu which has options of items that are in plentiful supply due to fishing trends, so it’s not like you’ll be left to go hungry. The only staple items which have been there every time I’ve been are oysters and crab (they pride themselves on being an oyster farm as Portland Oyster beds are located right in front of the restaurant). You literally cannot get fresher food than this!

We had oysters to share as a “pre-starter” (a posh term for being greedy). At £9.50 for a half-dozen they are an absolute bargain! I’ve had some very questionable oysters in London which have been almost double that price so I would definitely suggest that you make the most of these if you do go.  I’ve tended to have the half-crab to crack for a starter every time (its become a tradition) but I try and have something different for my main every time. On this occasion, I had hake which was a first for me. It was AMAZING! Served on a bed of roasted veg and topped with Chinese greens and a hollandaise sauce, it was so full of flavour. This was an option from the printed menu but my Dad opted for the chalk board option: whole seabass with a herb-stuffed belly, roasted in a salt-crust. Considering how quickly he hoovered (sorry, “politely ate”) it, I’m assuming it was good! All the above topped off with a bottle of wine from their VERY extensive wine list and you’re winning.

I hate to be a brown nose but there isn’t much I could criticise the Crab House Café for. This particular visit seemed to take longer service wise but I’m willing to accept that considering they are serving the most amazing food. All the staff are incredibly clued up on the menu (trust me, I asked enough questions) and the atmosphere is so relaxed and friendly that a minor wait for food on this occasion really doesn’t even seem worth mentioning!

I’ll leave you with this summary: It’s a nice plaice with a lot of sole! (I'm here all night guys).

They even make their own flavoured vodka and gin..... Worth the trip, just for that!


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